Blas de Otero Muñoz (1916-1979) was a Spanish writer and poet, whose work was framed in the intimate and social lyric of the mid-20th century. Part of his work was influenced by his personal experiences, sometimes love was the main theme.
Otero’s work was characterized by having moral and ethical features of the individual. Responsibility and freedom were decisive for human existence; his literary work was divided into three stages: the religious, the existential and the social.
One of the most important titles of the Spanish poet was Fiercely Human Angel , developed within his existentialist stage. This collection of poems was characterized by the poet’s need to find new reasons to live, as well as to understand the end of life.
Birth and family
Blas was born in Bilbao on March 15, 1916, in the nucleus of a wealthy family. His parents were Armando de Otero Murueta and Concepción Muñoz Sagarminaga. The marriage produced three children, in addition to Blas. The poet had as grandparents a renowned medical professional and a captain of the navy.
Education of Blas de Otero
Otero’s early years of education were led by a French teacher. In 1923 he began to study at the Maeztu Academy, directed by the mother of the educator María de Maeztu. Later he attended high school at an institution of the Society of Jesus in his hometown.
In 1927, with the end of the Great War, the de Blas family had financial problems, so they moved to Madrid. Otero continued his baccalaureate at the Instituto Cardenal Cisneros. Sadness came into his life two years later after the death of his older brother, and in 1932 with the loss of his father.
Back to Bilbao and first literary works
Blas began to study law without the conviction that he had a vocation for it, however, the family’s precarious economy led them back to Bilbao. The poet, in his hometown, studied and worked to help his mother and sisters. From that time were his first writings in print media.
His first publications were made in the newspaper El Pueblo Vasco, under the signature of “El poeta”, he also revealed his passion for poetry and with the publication of his first poems he won an award. In 1935 he obtained a law degree from the University of Zaragoza.
Blas’s activities during the Spanish Civil War
After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, Otero joined the Basque battalion. When the contest ended, he worked as a lawyer in a company in Vizcaya, at the same time in the newspaper Hierro he wrote articles on painting and music.
During those post-war years, the literary group Alea appeared under his participation, where his most extensive work until then emerged, entitled Spiritual Canticle. Later, the poet created the group of intellectuals Nuestralia, of a more intimate nature, made up of himself and four other friends.
Activities in Nuestralia and another trip to Madrid
Within Nuestralia, Blas de Otero made his way into literature with the use of little-known resources. It is worth noting that the works of poets such as Juan Ramón Jiménez and Miguel Hernández marked his work. It was in this group of intellectuals where the poet put intertextuality into practice as a resource.
At the beginning of the 1940s, Otero decided to study again, so he quit his job as a lawyer and returned to the Spanish capital to study philosophy and letters. However, the consequences of the Civil War minimized his desire to study and he returned again to Bilbao.
Beginning of his existentialist stage
It was in 1945 that Blas de Otero reaffirmed his passion for poetry, when depression invaded his life and he decided to enter the Usúrbil sanatorium. That difficult stage of his life introduced him to the existential phase of his literature, from there arose the fiercely human Angel, Ancia and Redoble de consciousness .
When he left the sanatorium, the poet traveled to Paris, life smiled on him when he met Tachia Quintanar, a Spanish poet and actress, with whom he started an affair. Already in the mid-1950s, literary criticism placed him on the highest rung of post-war poetry.
In 1955, Blas de Otero had achieved with his poetic work the recognition and attention of intellectuals of the time. During that year he went to Paris and, despite his solitary personality, he joined the groups of Spanish exiles. In the “City of Light” he began to write I ask for peace and the word.
Once again installed in Spain, he began an intense activity with the groups of workers and miners, and he also dedicated himself to traveling through the provinces of Castilla y León. He began to write in Castilian and finished I ask for peace and the word, from 1956 and for three years he went to live in Barcelona.
Censorship of Blas in Spain
Beginning in the sixties, Blas’s fame led him to travel through the Soviet Union and China, at the invitation of the National Society of Writers. In 1961 his work Ancia won the Fastenrath Prize, at the same time it was the time of prohibitions in Spain.
The Franco regime censored the works of various intellectuals. Therefore, Otero was affected and two of his literary works were published outside of Spain. One was published in Puerto Rico and was titled This is not a book, while the other was published in Paris and was called What is about Spain.
Last years of life and death
From 1964 to 1967 Otero went to live in Havana, where he married a woman named Yolanda Pina. At the end of his stay on the Caribbean island, he also ended his marriage, returned to Spain and resumed the relationship that he began years before with Sabrina de la Cruz.
During the last years of his life, the poet published several works, among them Fingidas y verdaderas and the anthology While. Blas de Otero died on June 29, 1979 in the city of Madrid, due to a pulmonary clot; his remains rest in the cemetery of the Spanish capital.
The poetic work of Blas de Otero is divided into three stages. Each of them is described below:
Beginning in 1935 when Otero was 19, she was influenced by her Catholic beliefs and fervent faith. There are not many works from that period, however, it was the leap of growth and poetic maturity. Although he produced a wide loose lyric, the main work was Spiritual Canticle.
The thematic content was love, which although it causes pleasure and joy, can be a reason for suffering. Furthermore, the poet expressed the unity between God and man through knowledge. It can be seen as an analogy between poetry and faith, according to the writer, both take man to a fuller place.
He began in the fifties with the works Angel fiercely human , Redoble de Conciencia and Ancia . This period was related to the philosophy of existentialism where being is different from existing, in which man exists through energy, unlike objects that remain immobile.
Blas de Otero was influenced by the philosophy of Frenchman Jean Paul Sartre, which makes human beings responsible for their actions and for the preeminence of their freedom. It is necessary to mention that the lonely spirit of the poet and the loss of faith due to life experiences also marked that stage.
The poet I, the God you
The Oterian existential stage was characterized by the presence of the “I” referring to the poet, and the “you” related to God, as in the religious one, with the difference that God, or the divine, was not present due to the loss of faith that the author suffered.
Blas de Otero reflected his anguish and loneliness in his inner state, so he saw in poetry an opportunity for hope to live. However, the purpose of pain is to recognize others, to accept circumstances, and according to the poet, to poetry and love.
Blas de Otero came to develop this stage from the recognition of others or of us that he carried out in his existential phase. I mean the location of individual loneliness with the rest of humanity, where poetry opened the doors to a more caring world.
In this poetic phase, the author referred to the errors of humanity, but also emphasized the ability to face them to achieve happiness. Otero developed three times of poetry in the social stage, which were:
This poetic time was related to the need to solve internal problems, as well as the breaking of customs and paradigms. Otero referred to the evil that religion did to society by forcing it to put aside its identity and human values .
Otero referred to the moment in which social poetry occurred. There were three elements that made up the “I” referred to the poet, the man in his acting in history and the belief in poetry. The main reasons were: humanity, social problems and poetry as hope.
With this section, Blas de Otero referred to the product of the actions of the present, that is, to a future full of promises and hopes. It had to do with the constant struggle between good and bad, where good was related to morals and ethics.
Blas de Otero’s literary style was characterized by a language full of expressiveness, while being precise, clear and lyrical. It was also particular due to the use of common elements within linguistics, up to the most complicated and unknown.
Within the metric used by Otero were sonnets, verses and free verse . Regarding the extension of the content of his work, there was variety, the length and the short were constant. His work had philosophical nuances often framed within innovation.
Themes in Otero’s poetry
As Otero’s work was existentialist, it meant that the themes developed were related to the human being, their needs, desires, values and miseries. Love was also present, oriented towards the divine, towards others in general, whether in a lustful or spiritual way.
– Four poems (1941).
– Spiritual Canticle (1942).
– Fiercely human angel (1950-1960).
– I ask for peace and speech (1955). A complete edition was made in Spain in 1975.
– Old age (1958).
– In Spanish (1959). A French edition entitled Parler clair was also produced .
– Redoubling of conscience (1951-1960).
– What about Spain (1964)
– Faked and true stories (1970).
– In Spanish (1977). It was the first edition held in Spain.
– Leaves of Madrid with the gale (2010, posthumous edition).
– Anthology and notes (1952).
– This is not a book (1963).
– Expression and reunion (1941-1969).
– While (1970).
– Country (1955-1970).
– Verse and prose (1974).
– All my sonnets (1977).
– Poetry with names (1977).
– Expression and meeting. As an anthology (Posthumous edition, 1981).
– Verse and prose (Posthumous edition, 1984).
– Blas de Otero for children (Posthumous edition, 1985).
– Poems of love (Posthumous edition, 1987).
– Chosen Poetry (Posthumous Edition, 1995).
– Mediobiography. Selection of Biographical Poems (Posthumous Edition, 1997).
– Basque Poems (Posthumous Edition, 2002).
– Poetic anthology. Expression and Reunion (Posthumous Edition, 2007).
– Poetic Anthology (Posthumous Edition, 2007).
– With the vast majority (1960). It included I ask for peace and the word and In Castilian.
– Towards the vast majority (1962). Composed by Fiercely Human Angel, Redoubling of Conscience, I ask for peace and the word and In Spanish.
– Which is about Spain (1964). It included I ask for peace and the word, In Castilian Spanish and What about Spain.
– Blas de Otero. Complete work (1935-1977). Posthumous edition (2013).
Brief description of the most representative works
Spiritual Canticle (1942)
This poem belonged to the religious stage of Otero, the central theme was related to the feeling of love towards the divine. The author structured it in four parts: a dedication, an introduction , lire and the end. Most of the verses were sonnets and free.
In the case of the dedication, the poet composed it with a sonnet . While the introduction was about a conversation about love between the poet and the spiritual, where God is the path that man must take to achieve fullness. There were 189 free hendecasyllable verses that made it up.
As for the lire, there were ten, and the content was related to the battles of man within his being, which he must win to achieve fullness. Finally, the end was related to the end of human existence in order to strengthen ties with the divine being; two sonnets and two Christmas carols made it up.
“Let’s rejoice, beloved,
and let’s go see in your
to the mountain and to the hill,
pure water flows;
let’s get deeper into the
And then to the climbs
caverns of stone
we will go
that are well hidden,
and there we will enter,
and the must of pomegranates
we will like.
… that no one was looking at him,
Aminadab did not appear either
and the fence calmed down,
and the cavalry
in sight of the waters
it descended ”.
Fiercely Human Angel (1950)
It was one of Blas de Otero’s poems, and it belonged to his existentialist stage. The poet structured it through an introduction, a development and a conclusion. It was composed of eighteen sonnets plus sixteen free and semi-free verses.
Regarding the theme of this poem, the text focused on the feelings and experiences of the author, which led him to find a reason to live. Finally, Blas referred to the need to understand that strength was in man and not in God. He felt hopeless and without illusions.
“A world like a broken tree,
an uprooted generation.
Some men with no more destiny
to shore up the ruins.
Break the sea
in the sea, like an immense hymen,
the trees sway the green silence,
the stars crackle, I hear them.
… He wants to stay. Keep following,
ascend, against death, to the eternal.
He is afraid to look. Close your eyes
To sleep the dream of the living ”.
Roll of Conscience (1951)
This work by Otero was part of his existentialist stage, in which his loss of faith in God was also reflected. Regarding its formation and structure, it consisted of an introduction, development and conclusion, in addition to fourteen sonnets and eight free verse poems.
“It is the vast majority, fronda
with cloudy foreheads and suffering breasts,
to those who fight against God, rights
in one fell swoop in its deep darkness.
To you, to you, to you, round wall
of a thirsty sun , famished fallows,
to all oh yes, to all go straight,
these poems made flesh and round.
… And they collapse like a sea of lead.
Oh, that fiercely human angel
He runs to save us, and he doesn’t know how!
Old Man (1958)
It made up the triad of Otero’s existentialist stage, where in addition to the forty-nine main poems, all those that made up Redoble de conscience plus thirty-two by Angel fiercely human were also included. He structured it in introduction, development and conclusion.
Regarding the subject of the introduction, he referred to the protection of the group. In the development there were four main themes: the battle between God and man, the power of feminine love as a guide for man, the mockery towards the religious and finally the meaning of the poet in Europe in general.
“As an unborn orphan,
and as an eternal beggar,
here I am, God. I am Blas de Otero,
which some call the ungrateful beggar.
Listen how I am, God of ruins.
Made a Christ, screaming into the void,
Ripping, angrily, the thorns.
Pity for this cold-cut man!
Withdraw, oh you, your hands asmbrinas
-I don’t know who you are, I’m sorry, my God! ”.
I ask for peace and speech (1955)
This poem was part of Blas de Otero’s social stage within his poetry, it was conceived during his stay in Paris. Through this writing, the poet made a criticism of the Franco dictatorship, at the same time reflected his commitment and feeling towards Spain and the less favored.
in defense of the kingdom
of man and his justice. I ask
peace and word. I said
of man and his justice,
what they leave me.
peace and the word ”.
Blas de Otero. Complete works 1935-1977 (2013)
This posthumous edition compiled the works of the Spanish poet from 1935 to 1977, both in prose and in verse. In addition to the works published during his lifetime, he grouped together two unpublished titles Poetry and History and New Fake and True Stories.
The edition also consisted of a large number of verses from its beginnings in literature. It should be noted that it was the result of a selection by whoever was his sentimental partner and admirer of his work Sabina de la Cruz.
Fragment of In Castilian (1960)
in front of you Tibidabo
the land that I needed to write my homeland
it is also Europe and powerful.
I show my torso and it gilds
step sipping roma olive tree
I enter through the Arc de Bará
Suddenly I go back all over the deep
with arm strokes I return to you
tree that I carry and love from the root
and one day it was ruined under heaven.
Fragment of What is about Spain (1964)
“Poetry has its rights.
I’m the first to sweat ink
in front of the paper.
Poetry creates words.
This is true and remains so
saying it backwards.
… Poetry has its duties.
Just like a schoolboy.
Between me and her there is a social contract ”.
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- Biography of Blas de Otero. (2004-2017). (N / a): Who.NET Thousands of Biographies. Recovered from: who.net.
- Blas de Otero (1916-1979). (S. f.). (N / a): Castilian Corner. Recovered from: rinconcastellano.com.